I spent some time on Facebook last night compiling data that shows who the most popular classic animation artists are on the social networking site. As a historian, I’m interested in understanding how artists from the early years of animation are remembered within the online community. The results aren’t particularly encouraging. Of the forty-eight artists I managed to find, roughly a quarter of them have attracted over five hundred fans. That’s a small number considering that these are some of the most revered names in our art form. Furthermore, a majority of the artists (nearly 60%) have less than 300 fans.
However, there is a silver lining. Classic artists who have continued to receive exposure in recent years have a disproportionately larger number of fans, which means that people would care about these artists if they were more aware of their accomplishments. Mary Blair, who has had a couple gallery exhibits and books published about her recently is the sixth most popular animation legend on Facebook. Walt Stanchfield, whose instructional handouts were compiled into books last year, is one hundred times more popular than Bill Tytla, who despite his stature, has received scant attention in the past couple decades.
What is most surprising are the omissions. Are Bob McKimson’s cartoons so disliked that he can’t garner even one fan from a pool of 400 million Facebook users? And McKimson is the tip of the iceberg. For starters, where are Ken Anderson, Bobe Cannon, Norm Ferguson, Carlo Vinci, Hawley Pratt, Pete Burness, Dick Lundy, Emery Hawkins, Preston Blair, Rod Scribner, Ray Patterson, Bob Givens, Art Davis, Dave Hilberman, Hugh Harman, Rudy Ising, Dave Tendlar, Grim Natwick, Bob McKimson, Milt Kahl, Sterling Sturtevant, Frank Thomas, Tom Oreb, Eric Larson, Les Clark, Shamus Culhane, Bill Littlejohn, Ken Harris, Art Babbitt, Virgil Ross, Manny Gould, Willard Bowsky, Al Eugster, Joe Grant, Dick Huemer and T. Hee to name but a few. Nobody appreciates any of these artists enough to start a fan page for them on the world’s largest social networking site, and that says a lot when nearly everything else has a fan page or group on Facebook nowadays.
Animation artists have never been ones to hanker for the spotlight, and as a result, there are few celebrities in this art form save for the characters themselves. So while nobody may appreciate the name Bob McKimson anymore, his character the Tasmanian Devil has 82,000 fans on Facebook, and though the name Grim Natwick may draw blank stares, rest assured that his eighty-year-old character Betty Boop has 92,000 fans.
The list of classic artists on Facebook is after the jump. I’m curious to hear what others make of these numbers.